A double-blind study was conducted by BH King and colleagues in which forty-three autistic children and adolescents between the ages of 5-19, received 2.5 mg of amantadine or a placebo (sugar pill) for a period of one week. The amantadine dosage was incrementally increased to 5 mg during the study. The researchers devised two standard tests. One was for use by clinicians and the other was for the parents of the participants. Of the children given the amantadine dosage, forty-seven percent were reported by clinicians as showing noticeable decreases in hyperactivity and inappropriate speech. On their standard test, parents reported a thirty-seven percent decrease in hyperactive behavior and the use of inappropriate speech. Overall, fifty-three percent of the children and adolescents given amantadine were rated as demonstrating global improvement in these two autistic behaviors.
When Is Amantadine Prescribed?
Amatadine autism treatment is prescribed by doctors or requested by parents as a last resort. Opponents of the use of anti-psychotic drugs and other medications for the treatment of autistic symptoms urge parents and doctors to carefully consider all other options before turning to these prescribed medicines. There is substantial documentation that therapies such as speech, social skills training, applied behavior analysis, and others can effectively treat some autistic symptoms. Since medicinal trials rarely, if ever, include children, the effects of a medicine, such as amantadine, may hold other unknown dangers for children.
What Does it All Mean?
The implications are promising. Amantadine has been shown to offer some benefits in treating autistic behaviors in a statistically significant number individuals.
For parents, there is both hope and worry. On one hand, a promising new treatment for two very troubling symptoms of autism has been uncovered. On the other, this drug was not intended for the treatment of autistic children. Parents therefore may worry whether it is safe for their children to use.